Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Found the Train of Fools

Several years ago I was taking some pictures for a band for their upcoming CD. They wanted pictures around railroad tracks and run down rail road cars. We found a location just off of I35 in east Austin that fit the bill perfectly. There was an abandoned box car we were working with on one set of tracks. However, the tracks behind me were still functional, and while we were shooting a train approached on those tracks. I looked up in time to see it was a passenger train, and at the end of one of the cars down a ways a fleck of red stood out. I took a Canon point and shoot I had with me, and snapped the above shot just as the fleck of red, which turned out to be someone dressed as a clown, passed me.

This has turned out to be one of my most successful images ever. It has been featured as photo of the week at Photo.net, and is currently being featured at a photo exhibit in a gallery in downtown Austin. The photo has been labeled 'Clown Train' and 'Train of Fools' (the former is the file name the second is a title I came up with later that I prefer). Everyone, including myself, seems to really enjoy this image.

I photographed the image originally in color. However I used a program called ACDSee to do the post processing work on it. ACDsee may not be the most powerful software in its class, but I find it does make for an extremely quick workflow if you just need to do some basic things. I first selected the center area of the train with the freehand lasso tool. Then I inverted the selection and applied a gaussian blur. I liked the dreamlike, surreal affect it had on the image. I then converted the image to a greyscale image for black and white as I felt the colors distracted from what was going on in the image.

I've wondered about the train though as I've looked at the image the past couple of years, and wondered about its story. Then one morning last week as I'm leaving my favorite local coffee shop here in Cedar Park I happen to notice something between some buildings in a strip mall across the street. I drive over to take a closer look, and low and behold there is a train yard I didn't know existed back there. Not only that, but my train in the above photo was stationed there. I drove around and found the gate which was closed, but they had flyers posted. Turns out it belongs to the Austin Steam Train Association. They run the train for various excursions on weekends. I was pretty stoked to find it, and am contacting them to see if I can do more photos, so stay tuned . :)


  1. Seems like it is often that the most unplanned shots are the ones that are the most honest and best shots. While on vacation in Colorado I took a quick snap shot of a mountain stream on my point & shoot that came out great. I later went back with my Olympus that has many more manual options and my tripod but couldn't get a photo that I liked near as much.

  2. You are absolutely right Cuda. I think sometimes when you don't have time to think about it your instincts take over and do the right thing. I've also had it happen though where I take a shot 'from the hip' and, though, it wasn't perfect, it gave me ideas for great images. I guess the moral of the story is 'shoot first and think about it later'. ;)